Finding our way around the Square Mile

One of the challenges for the Destination City programme, aimed at attracting more visitors to the Square Mile, is helping people find their way around once they arrive.

That was particularly true during the three weeks of Bartholomew Fair in September, with 250 events scattered across the City. While there was an official map with the programme, it was produced against a tight deadline and lacked detail.

There’s now a commitment in the next phase of Destination City to improve wayfinding through street signs and other means. I hope there will be a chance to discuss that at the public meeting being held on November 7.

As I wrote earlier, I think wayfinding – broadly defined – provides an opportunity for residents to get involved so we have maps, signs and phone apps that work for everyone.

City policy chief Chris Hayward told a City Question Time earlier this year that he wants residents to have some ownership of Destination City, and to contribute ideas. Here’s some input.

The brief for better wayfinding will help crystalise the aims of the programme, and the balance between promoting existing cultural and heritage attractions, and new leisure activities to attract consumer spend.

One way to start on improvements would be look at what maps, apps and signs we already have, including the many excellent trail guides available at the City of London Information Centre. There’s also Plan your visit guidance on the new visitor site created by Destination City.

On the streets there are well-designed signs that are part of the Legible London programme that came to the City a couple of years ago.

When the Bartholomew Fair locations were first announced in August I gave myself the task of creating a better map, and bringing together information from the visitor site, and trail guides. I created an information sheet for each location with a Streetview and individual Google map, and added the result to the website I had created for the official Fair and complementary Cloth Fair programme.

View the map and information sheets here

It only took a few hours because I had previously used the Wakelet curation tool to bring together information about walks and tours, and could embed that in the information sheets. You can find that here.

I didn’t make much of the exercise at the time, because it wasn’t sufficiently refined to provide an easy-to-use tool for visitors. It was really intended to spark some ideas on how to improve wayfinding online. I’ll come back to on-the-street improvements another time.

The November 7 meeting with Destination City will provide, I hope, an opportunity to find out what the brief is for improving wayfinding. The committee report, page 18, says:

“The Destination team will work with the Environment department and City stakeholders to develop a wayfinding strategy. The resource, funding and timings to deliver a City-wide solution will be considered as part of the strategy development over the coming months”

The simple maps and information sheets I’ve developed provide a hook for the question: if Bartholomew Fair is held across the City next year, what wayfinding help will visitors have? How could that – and other systems – be developed in ways that also helps residents and workers engage with the culture, heritage and other assets in their neighbourhoods throughout the year?

I’ve moved the information sheets to a wiki so that it will be easier to add more detailed content about the locations, if that’s a useful way to go. I’m still tweaking how the maps display and adding links, but I hope they at least show the potential.

I’ll share with the Destination City team and Environment Department to see whether I can find out more before the November 7 event, to help start and structure the discussion.


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